Oundle pupil publishes The Poetry of Proof
13th May 2015

‘Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty — a beauty cold and austere…the touchstone of the highest excellence is to be found in mathematics as surely as poetry.’

Bertrand Russell, "The Study of Mathematics," Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays, (London: Longman)

Oundle School pupil, Rebecca Siddall (15) has published her first book entitled The Poetry of Proof, containing fifty mathematical proofs explained in poetic form to help newcomers to the world of mathematical proofs.

Rebecca commented, “If mathematical proofs are given a certain light-hearted and poetic mood and tone, it makes them both enjoyable and easier to absorb; either as a conscious and methodical process, or even perhaps by osmosis – which is where the poetry should come into its own. My aim is to provide a soft landing for beginners who might be daunted by the plunge into understanding proofs. There are fascinating aesthetic and creative relationships between mathematics and poetry, as well as huge differences and divisions.” 

The Poetry of Proof is a book for beginners in either subject, or both. For those familiar with poetry, each proof will hopefully be made less daunting and more accessible: for those familiar with proof, Rebecca hopes to combine some unorthodox insights with a little linguistic entertainment. Either way, come the final page, whatever any of us might lack in understanding, we may - just possibly - absorb through osmosis.

Last year was an extraordinary year for Rebecca. As well as writing her book she completed an online Astrobiology course and was invited to take part in a placement before attending the 14th Astrobiology Conference at Edinburgh University, where she presented a paper on microbes, known as ‘Desert Varnish’ which she studied for her Extended Project Qualification (EPQ). For two years running, Rebecca has won the School’s Science Essay Writing competition, was a prize winner in the Oundle Festival of Literature’s writing competition and received enthusiastic feedback from a Cambridge don for her essay on a Babylonian mathematical tablet.

Rebecca has also achieved successive Gold Awards in the British Society of Biology Challenge, and a recent Distinction in the UKMT National Maths Olympiad. This year she was also shortlisted as a finalist in the Talent 2030 National Engineering Competition for Girls, with a project about effective carbon capture and the safe disposal of long term, high-level nuclear waste. Her award included the chance to display her work at the Big Bang Fair in April.

Rebecca’s tutor and English teacher, Juliette Coles commented, “Rebecca is an exceptional individual whose curiosity defines her approach at all times; she makes the most of every opportunity offered to her and relishes all forms of intellectual challenge whilst being delightful company in the process!”


Background Information on Oundle School

Oundle School is situated in the quintessentially English market town of Oundle, about 90 miles north of London. The School’s buildings, dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries, are dispersed throughout the town, which is, to a large extent, its campus.

The School’s history dates back to 1556, when Sir William Laxton, Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and Lord Mayor of London, endowed and re-founded the original Oundle Grammar School, of which he was a former pupil. In 1876, the Grocer’s Company divided the School into two parts; Laxton Grammar School, primarily for the inhabitants of the town, and Oundle School, primarily for pupils from further afield. In 2000, the Grocers’ Company reunited the two schools under the common name of Oundle School and retained the name of Laxton for the day House.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Oundle was put firmly on the map of leading English public schools by its most famous headmaster, F W Sanderson, who established Oundle’s reputation as one of the great science and engineering schools, a reputation still renowned today. In 2007, SciTec - a major and ground-breaking new science complex - opened, housing 16 state-of-the-art laboratories. The School is now embarking on a large SciTec Campus development project which will see a new Mathematics department constructed adjacent to SciTec as well as a significant upgrade to the Design and Technology department within the Patrick Engineering Centre. Due for completion in September 2016, the development will unite Science, Mathematics, Design, Technology and Engineering both physically and philosophically, enabling pupils to move seamlessly from theory to practice and from pure science to the achievement of a workable technology. A concurrent Sports Masterplan will upgrade sporting facilities across the School over the next few years, including a new 1st XI cricket pavilion due to open April 2015. 

There are currently 1100 pupils on roll at Oundle School, with 850 boarders and 250 day pupils. Also within the Corporation of Oundle School is Laxton Junior School, a day School for children aged 4 to 11. 

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